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Main topics covered
• Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism and Tibetan society
• Environment and society in Tibet
• The growth of Buddhism in Tibet
• The evolution of the four main traditions
• Tibetan religious literature
Key points 1
 Tibetan Buddhism is one of a number of forms of
Buddhism. While it shares the central concerns and many
features common to other Buddhist traditions, it also has
many specific features and aspects of its own.
 Tibet’s environment and society, with its farming villages,
pastoralist communities, and trading centres, form an
essential background for understanding Tibetan Buddhism.
Tibetans today
Tibetan pastoralists
Tibetan pastoral settlement, Amdo (north-east Tibet), 2010
Tibetan agriculturalists
Village in Yarlung Valley, Central Tibet, 1987
Tibetan urban life
Gyantse, Central Tibet, 1987
Key points 2
 Tibetan Buddhism was originally introduced to Tibet under court
patronage during the Imperial period (seventh to ninth centuries).
It survived after the collapse of the early empire by becoming an
integral part of village and pastoral society, especially by
providing the techniques through which Tibetan communities
dealing with the world of spirits through which they understood
their relationship to their often dangerous and threatening natural
 Tibetan Buddhism developed in the form of a number of separate
but related traditions, often grouped into four main schools, the
Nyingmapa, Kagyüdpa, Sakyapa and Gelugpa. The Bon religion,
which claims pre-Buddhist but non-Tibetan origins, has close
similarities to Buddhism and is in some respects a fifth school.
Chenrezig (Avalokiteśvara)
Sangdok Pelri Monastery, Kalimpong, India 2007
Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava)
Sangdok Pelri Monastery, Kalimpong, India 2007
Tibetan mountain gods
Rebkong, Northeast Tibet, 2010
Tibetan mountain gods
Sangdok Pelri Monastery, Kalimpong, India 2007
Key points 3
 Tibet has a very large body of religious literature, much of
which has survived and been reproduced in recent years,
and substantial parts of which are now available in
 Tibetan religion is, however, centrally a tradition of
practice, and its most important feature for the Tibetans is
the ongoing practice tradition of Tantric yoga.
Tibetan literature
Tirpai Gompa, Kalimpong, India, 2007
The end